SUN Hockey Pool

Every arena has a piece of hockey lore

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:12 PM ET

STRATFORD, Ont. - A grand building like the Allman Arena is formed of steel and wood and bricks.

But there's something you can't touch when you walk into a rink that has been at the heart of this town's hockey existence for 85 years.

It's the collected emotions of the players and fans it has embraced over that time, the memories of the players and plays that become the touchstones of a community.

Whether it is a small rink holding 100 or an NHL building holding 21,000, a community's rink is a bank of collective experiences.

Every town has them. Local heroes and legendary playoff series, the stories of which are handed down like the family china.

Here it is the 1983 Ontario Hockey Association Junior B semifinal series between the Cullitons and the London Diamonds, a series that would see two 16-year-olds go head-to-head, a prelude of greater things for both.

Ed Olczyk was a Chicago native who came to play for the Cullitons, setting an OHA Junior B scoring record with 142 points in 42 games.

Craig Simpson was a London native playing for his hometown team, putting up 111 points with the Diamonds.

A turning point in the series wound up being a faceoff between the two future NHL stars late in Game 3, with the series tied and the Diamonds leading 6-5.

The Cullitons had been awarded a power play after asking for a measurement of Brad Jansen's stick. With seven seconds left in regulation and their goaltender on the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage, Olczyk won the faceoff from Simpson and Stratford captain Mark Maue beat London goaltender Craig Billington, another future NHLer, to force overtime. The Cullitons won in overtime and went on to win the series in five games.

"I think I got a real good feel of what it's like being in Stratford and how important the Cullies are," Olczyk told the Stratford Beacon Herald, "so I'm not surprised it's still talked about. The support we had is one of the reasons I chose going to Stratford."

Just about every town in Canada has stories like that, tales that make up the quilt that is a town's past, the kind of stories that are pulled up and polished at a time like Hockey Day in Canada.


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